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College Receives $1 Million Grant to Increase Qualified STEM Educators in Western PA High-Need Schools

Posted on Friday, August 29, 2014

Officials announced today that a $1.027 million grant has been awarded to Westminster College through the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program of the National Science Foundation, a program aimed to increase qualifications of secondary educators in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (IQ STEM).

"Through this exceptional program, Westminster will significantly contribute to strengthening STEM skills and qualifications within the region's high-need secondary schools," said Dr. Richard H Dorman, Westminster College president. "Called the IQ STEM program, the grant enables us to continue our commitments to achieving outstanding educational outcomes not only at Westminster, but also in our region's schools."

According to Dr. Amy Camardese, principal investigator, Westminster's program will lead to a 53% increase in highly qualified STEM teachers in Western Pennsylvania with a cohort of 20 educators specialized in teaching in areas of high need at the end of five years.

Westminster's plans include workshops, development of capstone research and experiential learning and creation of a new course designed to address the racial, cultural, and economic needs of school districts trying to narrow the achievement gap.

The IQ Stem Grant at Westminster includes formal collaboration with Sharon City School District and the Farrell Area School District in Mercer County and the Union Area School District and New Castle Area School District in Lawrence County.  Each of the four districts meets one or more of the definitions of a "high-need" school district as defined by the Higher Education Act of 1965.

A central part of Westminster's IQ Stem Grant is the Noyce Scholar Program, which supports academic scholarships for undergraduate STEM majors who commit to teaching in high-need K-12 school districts.  

"Teachers are such an influential and important part of our country's future; it is wonderful to see a program that provides support at several levels," said Camardese, professor and chair of Westminster's Department of Education.  "We are not only investing in our STEM majors but also the outcomes of regional high schools."

Noyce Scholars will receive a $15,000 grant per year during their junior and senior years and stipends to attend and present at conferences and assistance with expenses, including the cost of certification tests. In return, Noyce Scholars commit to two years of teaching in an area of high need for each year of support received.

Noyce Scholar eligibility includes an application process including three recommendations, an essay, a minimum grade point average of 3.0, and an interview by the selection committee. 

Students in the program will be mentored by Westminster faculty from a STEM discipline: Dr. Sarah Kennedy, assistant professor of chemistry; Dr. Sararose Lynch, assistant professor of education; Dr. Thomas Oberst, assistant professor of physics; Dr. Karen Resendes, assistant professor of biology; and Dr. Pamela Richardson, associate professor of mathematics.

Camardese, who joined the faculty in 2001, earned an undergraduate degree from Ohio University, master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and Ph.D. from Kent State University.

Dr. Amy Camardese